Carole Walter | Great Cookies | Clarkson Potter, 2003 | Makes 80 1 x 1 3/4-inch cookies
Festive Florentines have a thin nut crust topped with chewy, honey-flavored caramel. The golden caramel is covered with sliced unblanched almonds, which are traditional here, and colorful glace fruits. The jewel-like filling sparkles through a web of chocolate zigzagged across the top.—Carole Walter
For the nut crust
10 2/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
For the caramel topping
5 1/3 tablespoons superfine sugar
2/3 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped glacé cherries
1/4 cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
1/4 cup coarsely chopped candied lemon peel
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup sliced unblanched almonds
2 ounces fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, such as Lindt Bittersweet, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
Make the nut crust
1. Position the shelf in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Tear a 15 x 18-inch sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Invert the pan and center the foil over the pan, pressing it across the bottom and down the sides. Remove the foil, turn the pan right side up, and place the foil shell into the pan, shaping it smoothly across the bottom and snugly against the sides. Using a pastry brush, grease the bottom and sides with softened butter, taking care not to tear the foil.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Cool to tepid.
3. Place the flour, salt, and almonds in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse eight to ten times, then process for 60 seconds, until fine and cakey. Using a fork, stir the mixture into the tepid melted butter and mix thoroughly. Divide into eight portions and place in the pan, pressing it as evenly as you can. Insert a dough scraper, small spatula, or the flat side of a plastic pastry comb between the dough and the sides of the pan to clean and even the edges. Bake the crust for 15 to 16 minutes, or until lightly browned and set on top. Let stand for 8 to 10 minutes to firm.
Make the caramel topping
1. Place the sugar, butter, cream, honey, and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring gently but constantly. Brush the sides of the pot with water to be sure the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for 1 minute longer.
2. Mix in the candied fruits, zests, and nuts, blending well. Cook the mixture over low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to thicken and the caramel starts to darken. The thickness of the pot will determine the cooking time. Watch the sides of the pot to see the first signs of thickening.
3. Immediately pour the filling onto the warm crust and spread evenly with a large buttered offset spatula, distributing the topping as best you can. Bake the Florentines for 13 to 15 minutes, until bubbly on top and the surface has begun to brown. Do not overbake. Cool on a wire rack.
Top with chocolate
1. Melt the chocolate in a water bath (note below). When the chocolate is almost melted, stir in the vegetable oil. Do not let the chocolate mixture get too hot. Keep the chocolate warm while you unmold the Florentines, gently stirring occasionally.
2. Lift the Florentine bar from the pan, using the foil as an aid, and place it on a cutting board or flat surface. Before you web the bar with chocolate, cut the bar in half and slide each half off the foil.
3. Pour the warm chocolate into a plastic squeeze bottle or an 8-inch pastry bag fitted with a #2 standard writing tip. Starting at an upper corner of one of the Floretines bars, make very fine lines at an angle, moving the pastry bag back and forth to the opposite corner until the entire surface is covered; if you wish, reverse the pattern, going in the opposite direction. Repeat with the remaining Florentines bar. Let stand until the chocolate is set, then cut into eighty 1 x 1 3/4-inch bars.
Storage: Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 5 days. These cookies may be frozen.
Note: A water bath, also referred to as a bain-marie, can be used for both hot and cold mixtures. By surrounding the food with water, the heat is cushioned and prevents the food from overcooking. In cookie baking, the hot water method is used most commonly for melting chocolate. It takes two pots or bowls to make a water bath, one large and the other smaller. For stovetop purposes, a small amount of hot water is placed in a shallow pan, such as a skillet, and heated to a simmer. Set a bowl holding the chocolate into the water. The level of the water should cover no more than one-fourth of the exterior of the inner bowl. Otherwise, the bowl may float or tip.
Recipe © 2003 Carole Walter. Photo © 2003 Duane Winfield. All rights reserved.